Earlier this week it was announced that the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) and the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) would be coming together in a partnership to drive a number of research and insight projects that will investigate how both communities of professionals are evolving and adapting to the changing workplace.
The driving force behind this initiative is Chris Kane, ex head of Corporate Real Estate at BBC Workplace and Chair of BIFM’s newly-minted Futures taskforce. A couple of months ago, Chris invited me to help him build the proposition that eventually led to this week’s announcement. I wrote on a whiteboard three questions to frame discussions around:
How might we?
What’s in it for us?
The “How might we?” question is “How might we reshape the world of work?”
The answer to “Why?” is “Because there is significant dysfunction in our current approach, disruption is endemic and we still work, manage and lead with an outdated and irrelevant 20th Century silo mentality.”
“What’s in it for us?” Refers not to Chris and I, but to the question we seek to answer so that those occupying those silos might see the risk inherent in failing to evolve.
Our initial conversations brought us to the conclusion that, for thoughtful and effective place-making to be successful and for working lives to be more creative, productive and meaningful, we needed to examine and understand the root cause of the dysfunctional workplaces and working practices that dog us still, and to a consideration of the actions required to enable a vibrant ecosystem of the future world of work to emerge.
An ecosystem is described as a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. It is a system with inbuilt dynamic equilibrium and it functions successfully through symbiotic relationships between its constituent parts. Each animal might occupy a particular niche or evolutionary specialism but they will wither and die if they are siloed. Silos are for dodos.
Chris and I felt that we needed to quickly build bridges out of and across these silos to enable evolution. For me, the most logical first step, and the one most easy to put in train, was to bring BIFM (place) and CIPD (people) together. So I picked up the phone and called connector extraordinaire and social media maven, Perry Timms, CIPD’s Social Media & Engagement Advisor and explained what we were up to. Perry got it immediately and kindly agreed to arrange for Chris to meet with Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD. Peter was instantly supportive and so our first bridge was built. It’s been a challenge getting the two organisations to come together in what is an extraordinarily brief space of time but the initial success has been built on convergent and congruent intent, words and actions.
In session with Chris Moriarty, BIFM’s Head of Insight & Corporate Affairs, Perry and his colleagues Sarah Boyd and Sophie Nolan, we discussed the notion of the ecosystem as analogous with the future world of work and, borrowing the butterfly effect from chaos theory, we saw that there was great power in channeling the collective impact of many butterflies flapping their wings in harmony. We looped back to silos and made the link with the butterfly hatching from its chrysalis. This was a useful metaphor for the emergence of a fresh approach to the way we think together about the way we work together, outside of our respective silos. We acknowledge that there are multiple complex networks to bridge together. There is much good stuff happening out there already. There will be many people who want to get involved. We also acknowledge that there will be people who disagree. There will almost certainly be a few who might actively work against us. We will be inviting all of these people to come on the journey with us. We are better and stronger, with a greater chance of success, together.
The first round table takes place on 28th May and we’ve got some great minds in the room. This is a first small step and I’m as impatient for action as I’m sure many others will be. My involvement is ongoing and I’ll be working with Chris and the taskforce on an ongoing basis as scribe, facilitator and critical friend. I want to leave the room on the 28th with clear, public committments from people to lead specific workstreams with defined timescales and with a remit to have transparent conversations with anyone they feel can bring value, irrespective of their affiliation. The first round table will operate to the Chatham House Rule but thereafter I will be pushing for people to publicly demonstrate the courage of their convictions. If I think this is degenerating into a talking shop, I’m going to call it out. They need have nothing to fear if they’ve nothing to hide. I will be using this blog and other social media channels to share openly with everyone who has an interest, the inner workings of this undertaking, who is involved and what they are up to. I have a shopping list of other people I see as vital for inclusion if we are to sustain our initial momentum, technologists, educators, policy makers, activists, scientists, climatologists, analysts. These folks are mighty important but they are human beings first and foremost and what we’re trying here, when you boil it down, is to simply do good people stuff.
I’ll leave you with a request.
Join in. Tell us what you think. Suggest people you think we should be talking to. Point out tools and techniques we can use. Seek us out and challenge us. Give us a call and let us buy you a coffee. Use the hashtag #btw
Chris Kane on the genesis of the thinking behind the collaboration
Doug Shaw responds to the announcement
Mark Catchlove adds his thoughts
And more from Chris on why this is so important
Perry Timms gets poetic
A simply astonishing piece from Ian Ellison
Neil Usher provides precisely the sort of challenge needed if this whole enterprise isn’t going to disappear up it’s own arse
Stuart Snelling argues for an “acting with” rather than a “doing to” approach
Neil Usher again, on letting our ideas vanish forever